Human Nature

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 327-344

First online:

Sex differences in interest in infants across the lifespan

A biological adaptation for parenting?
  • Dario MaestripieriAffiliated withCommittee on Human Development, The University of Chicago Email author 
  • , Suzanne PelkaAffiliated withCommittee on Human Development, The University of Chicago

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This study investigated sex differences in interest in infants among children, adolescents, young adults, and older individuals. Interest in infants was assessed with responses to images depicting animal and human infants versus adults, and with verbal responses to questionnaires. Clear sex differences, irrespective of age, emerged in all visual and verbal tests, with females being more interested in infants than males. Male interest in infants remained fairly stable across the four age groups, whereas female interest in infants was highest in childhood and adolescence and declined thereafter, particularly for the responses to visual stimuli. The observed developmental changes in female interest in infants are consistent with the hypothesis that they represent a biological adaptation for parenting.

Key words

Adaptation Development Interest in infants Prenatal hormones Sex differences Socialization